Categories
Book Reviews

“The Leisure Seeker” by Michael Zadoorian

Ella and John have been together for more than sixty years. Now in their eighties Ella has developed terminal cancer whilst John is living with dementia. Aware that they don’t have all that much time left together they decide to leave their home in the American Midwest and take one last long road trip across America to the California coast. They don’t inform their grown up children of their plan. They sneak away in their 1978 Leisure Seeker RV, (a campervan for those not familiar with the American terminology) and follow a route they’d followed years ago, when their children were much younger. 

John drives, though he’s increasingly confused and occasionally wanders off, sometimes even threatening Ella with violence. Ella organises everything, though she’s often in agony with her illness and becoming progressively more tired as the road trip drags on for days and days. Back at home, their children are frantic, imagining every variation on the worst case scenario. Little do they know. The couple are held up at knife point, suffer a bad fall and, on several occasions, John gets lost leaving Ella panicking and unsure what to do. When Ella phones home to check in with the children, she doesn’t tell them about any of this.

The Leisure Seeker is a strange little novel. It’s very readable, but the tone is quite odd. It’s hard to tell whether the reader’s meant to see this last adventure as a joyous celebration of a life well-lived, or an example of selfishness on Ella’s part. Though she isn’t technically behind the wheel, this is very much her road trip. John does as he’s told throughout the novel. For me this raised real questions about autonomy and freedom. It’s impossible to know whether a man with a cognitive impairment would willingly choose to drive across half of America in a campervan if he understood how dangerous it was. There’s also a strange change of tone at the novel’s close. For two thirds of the book it feels a little like a buddy movie: upbeat, funny, slightly sentimental, and then towards the novel’s end things take a dark turn. I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers but the final scene kind of calls into question the book’s basic premise, that it is possible to live well and fully with dementia. 

Saying all this, for a piece of commercial fiction, the dementia narrative is reasonably accurate and seems to be well-researched. The novel is narrated throughout by Ella so it’s her understanding of her husband’s condition and experience the reader is being presented with. I think this is important to note. From the perspective of dementia, the main questions which The Leisure Seeker left me with were all around autonomy and control. Is it ok that Ella decides everything for John, even if she is married to him?

The Leisure Seeker was published by Harper Collins in 2009

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Book Reviews

“Flight” by Oona Frawley

Irish novelist, Oona Frawley’s debut novel Flight is a beautifully observed portrait of four lives intersecting. It’s set just outside Dublin in 2004 as a referendum on citizenship approaches. Sandrine is a pregnant Zimbabwean women who has left her husband and son at home seeking to better herself and ultimately gain citizenship for them all in Ireland. Sandrine finds herself working as a live-in carer for Tom and Claire, a rich retired couple who have lived in Ireland, America and Vietnam, following Tom’s career as a spice importer. Tom is now living with advanced dementia and their daughter Elizabeth hires Sandrine to look after him and also keep an eye on Claire, who is increasingly confused herself. Tom is soon moved to a residential care facility and passes away soon after. Within a few month’s Claire’s conditioned deteriorates in a similar way and she too passes away in a nursing home.

I really enjoyed reading Flight. The prose is so carefully crafted and evocative. As the perspective moves between the protagonists it’s really easy to imagine the same situation as slightly different when seen through their eyes. It’s very much a novel concerned with the idea of memory. Whilst Elizabeth struggles with how she was brought up, flitting between various countries and various homes, Claire longs for Vietnam and the lifestyle of her younger days. As her memories merge and become confused, her senses frequently take her back to Vietnam. Sandrine is also constantly interrogating her understanding of the past and what it means to belong to a place. Thrown together, the big quiet house the three women inhabit, comes to feel like a kind of dream scape where time and reality are both confused. There’s also a sense that the women are struggling to connect. They all seem to be lonely, though they’re constantly together. They don’t seem to know how to communicate with each other. It’s only when Sandrine has her baby that she and Elizabeth finally connect, bonding as equals over the baby and talking honestly about their lives.

As a dementia narrative, Flight is intriguing. There are very few of the common tropes played upon here. Neither Tom nor Claire is prone to wandering. They don’t seem to forget each other or confuse their daughter for someone else. Their journey with dementia is more of a kind of gentle erasure. They are less and less present as the novel progresses. Both pass away calmly in their sleep as if succumbing to the last stage of what’s been a kind of extended dream.

Flight was published by Tramp Press in 2014 

Categories
Films

The Roads Not Taken

In English director Sally Potter’s most recent feature, The Roads Not Taken, the first discernible words uttered by the main character, are “everything is open.” In a sense this statement, mumbled by Leo, a writer living with Dementia, (perfectly portrayed by Hollywood A-Lister, Javier Bardem), gives the viewer a quick synopsis of the entire film. The screenplay, (also written by Potter), jumps backwards and forwards between three different points in Leo’s life. We see him as a younger man, married to Salma Hayek and mourning the death of their son, in exile from his second marriage, writing alone in Greece and finally as an older man, confused and depleted by the illness, being guided through a single day’s errands around the city in the company of his daughter Molly, (sensitively played by Elle Fanning). Everything is open at the same time in this movie. Time is fluid as Leo’s memory leaps and flits from one period to the next. Potter does a masterful job of capturing the eternal present of living with Dementia where the past can seem just as real and believable as the moment the person is actually living in. I particularly enjoyed the way the movie skipped seamlessly between the various stages of Leo’s life, leaving much unsaid, mumbled or deliberately confusing, so the viewer empathises with the confusion experienced by Leo and his family.

The strongest section of The Roads Not Taken is undoubtedly the strand set in Leo’s present. The relationship between Leo and his daughter Molly -who has taken on much of the carers role- is believable, warm and occasionally heart-breaking. We see Molly’s distress when her father wanders off in the middle of the night. We see her struggle to understand his speech and promise to, “try harder to see it from your point of view. To see what you see.” We see her frustrated when she loses out on a big job because of her responsibilities with her father. We see her irate at the way others treat Leo, speaking over him and patronising him. But what comes across most strongly in Potter’s depiction of their relationship is the way father and daughter continue to find small moments of connection even as the illness forces them apart. There’s a particularly poignant scene in the bathroom at the dentist’s when, having soiled his own trousers, Molly gives her father hers. Even in the midst of humiliation and confusion there are moments when this movie manages to laugh and yet there’s no schmaltzy ending here, no neat conclusion or moment of epiphany. Leo and Molly’s situation is just as complex and difficult at the end of their day together as it was in the opening credits. Neither does Potter attempt to deify Leo or paint Molly as a saint. Both are flawed, occasionally failing characters. This is what makes them believable. 

Bardem is wonderful in this movie. He has a huge presence onscreen and the sheer bulk of his body, though slowed and atrophied by Dementia, refuses to be relegated to the ranks of a shadowy invalid. He is enormously present throughout. The camera often lingers painfully close to his face, exposing every wrinkle and pore. We are forced to look straight and deliberately at Leo as a person, present with his illness. Here, it is impossible to ignore the person living with Dementia. The Roads Not Taken takes an unflinching look at Dementia and our treatment of people living with the illness. To some extent, this unflinching personal gaze makes the viewer feel culpable in the way society has othered, dismissed and ignored the Dementia experience. I don’t think this is any bad thing.

The Roads Not Taken was directed by Sally Potter and released in the UK in September 2020 

Categories
Book Reviews

“Minor Monuments” by Ian Maleney

Minor Monuments is a collection of personal essays by Dublin-based writer Ian Maleney. They’re all set around his family’s small farm on the edge of a bog a few miles from the River Shannon. They explore issues around belonging, place, home, memory and nature and weave together Maleney’s personal experience with his musings on literature, art and, most frequently, sound. Maleney uses sound recordings to capture and explore the landscape of his childhood. Interspersed throughout the essays is the story of his grandfather, John Joe’s diagnosis and experience with Alzheimer’s.

“I wanted to listen hard to his final emergence; to capture his life in the last stage of becoming – to record the person still forming even as he began, contrapuntally, to unravel.”

Minor Monuments follows John Joe right through to his death and funeral. As the older man slowly loses his memories and connections to the landscape, Maleney is questioning his own sense of belonging and how he’s come to think of his home. He spends as much time as he can with John Joe, documenting his stories and paying careful attention to how he interacts with the world around him. At several points in the book, I had the sense that I was encountering a kind of teacher/disciple scenario, with Maleney patiently waiting for his grandfather’s lived inheritance to pass on to him.

“A wake like John Joe’s is not just an opportunity to remember these people and their stories, but also a chance to share and build on those memories, to pass them on and to bind them closer to the people who are living out their own stories in the same place.”

The prose is neat and sparse but imbued with warmth. It’s like reading someone’s meandering thoughts as they pick their way through a difficult time. It’s impossible not to imagine the two men -one old, one young- sat together companionably, their very different world experiences stretching between them, their mutual fondness apparent throughout. This is such a gentle book. It’s deeply respectful and extremely attentive, as you might expect from a writer used to recording sound.

I also deeply appreciated the portrayal of a rural, working man with dementia. It’s rare to see this character portrayed in literature and yet I frequently come across older men and women, like John Joe, who develop dementia whilst living in farmhouses and on land that’s been in their family for generations. For these people, a move to residential care can be nothing short of earthshattering. They are intrinsically bound to their land.

I love this book. It was my favourite non-fiction read of 2019 and I’ve pressed it upon many people since then. Maleney writes with honesty and tenderness, always holding his grandfather as an equal. There’s an awful lot of wisdom in both what he writes and how he writes it. These essays are rich with humility.

Minor Monuments was published by Tramp Press in 2019

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Book Reviews

“Grandpa’s Great Escape” by David Walliams

I don’t make a habit of criticising other author’s work. I know how difficult it is to write a novel. I know that the beauty of a book is often in the eye of the beholder and everyone has different tastes. What gives me the right to make a value judgment about a novel? However, every so often, a book comes along which leaves me so riled up I’m afraid I can’t keep from being critical. 

I’ve never read any of David Walliam’s kids’ books before. I knew they were incredibly popular – NUMBER ONE bestsellers, according to the cover- and I also knew many of my friends and colleagues in the kids’ book world had reservations about both Walliam’s work and also the increasing popularity of children’s books written by celebrity authors. I’m not going to wade into that argument, but I do think they are voicing legitimate concerns and, if Grandpa’s Great Escape is similar to the rest of Walliams’ work I’d have to say I have huge issues with his lazy and borderline misogynistic portrayal of women, his lazy, cliched, offensive depictions of BAME characters and the slightly snide and sneery way he writes about working class people. Putting these reservations aside for the moment, however, I will attempt to focus on Walliams’ exploration of dementia in this novel.

Dementia is not mentioned by name in Grandpa’s Great Escape but as the novel begins with the line “one day Grandpa began to forget things,” and Walliams goes on to outline how he’s taken to wandering off at night, confusing the past with the present and does not recognise close family members, it’s fair to say Grandpa has developed dementia. The novel’s plot outlines his adventures with his grandson Jack. Swept up in an extended delusion that he’s still living in the days of WW2 when he served his country as a fighter pilot, Grandpa runs away from home, hides out in a spitfire in the Imperial War Museum, is incarcerated in an old people’s home which he mistakes for a Prisoner of War camp, leads a mass break out from the home and eventually steals a spitfire from the Imperial War Museum which he flies away in. The plot is quite frankly absurd, but it is a children’s book and I’m all for wild flights of fancy in literature aimed at both children and adults. The problem here is the tone. Most of the outlandish events are written with such flippancy that the suspension of disbelief disintegrates instantly. Walliams has often been accused of being diet-Dahl but he lacks Dahl’s ability to believe his own magic. The made up stuff feels made up and I doubt it would make it past the discerning imagination of most eight year olds. It is badly written nonsense.

I’d be annoyed if this was all Walliams was offering his readers, but I think Grandpa’s Great Escape is so much worse than a poorly written piece of children’s literature. It’s attempting to address an important issue; presenting a character with dementia to countless young readers who might well have a grandparent or loved one living with the illness. As such, it’s unforgivable. Grandpa’s dementia is like no dementia I’ve ever encountered in almost fifteen years of working in this area. He can’t remember his family, confuses times and dates, forgets things and yet manages to mastermind elaborate escape plans, fly a spitfire plane, enter into complicated conversations and at all times remain fastidiously and neatly dressed in full army regalia. It’s quite clear from this portrayal that Walliams has done no research at all into how dementia would actually impact an elderly man or what effect the condition might have on his young grandson. Furthermore, the depiction of the residential care facility Grandpa’s moved into is terrifying. He’s drugged, physically abused by carers and isolated from his family. If I were reading this novel, as a young person whose grandpa had dementia, I’d be both terrified by the possibility he might be incarcerated in a Colditz-style care home and also full of the false hope that he might make a miraculous recovery from his illness. 

At best this book is badly written. At worst it’s downright harmful and instils a false narrative about dementia. I wish all those children, (or perhaps parents), who’ve made it a NUMBER ONE bestseller had instead picked up one of the amazing books for kids I’ve previously highlighted on the blog. 

Grandpa’s Great Escape was published by Harper Collins in 2015 

Categories
Films

Falling

Falling is actor, Viggo Mortensen’s debut effort as both a writer and director and it is a stunning accomplishment. Mortensen casts himself as John, a successful pilot, living in California with his husband and their adopted daughter. The movie begins, (in quite shocking fashion), with a scene on a plane. John is flying home from the Midwest with his father, Willis, (Lance Henriksen), when the older man’s dementia causes him to forget where he is and create a scene. Willis is in California to look for a smaller property as he transitions away from the large farm he’s no longer capable of looking after. However, nothing goes to plan during his visit: he manages to offend his daughter, played by Laura Dern, forgets he’s agreed to move house and is so belligerent and offensive he insults almost everyone he comes into contact with.

The film moves backwards and forwards between contemporary time -where Henriksen does an incredible job of portraying an older man who is stubborn, angry and ultimately afraid of losing his own autonomy- and the past -where Sverrir Gudnasson plays a much younger version of Willis who is not yet living with dementia but is equally stubborn, angry and intent upon wielding his authority over his family. Mortensen’s portrayal of John is notable for his forbearance and his measured approach to his father. He maintains the same patient demeanour throughout as his father rages, delivers homophobic and racist insults and humiliates him at every turn. Mortensen’s compassion is so marked it makes the moment when he finally loses his temper -railing against his father for years of abuse- one of the most powerful scenes in the film.

It’s so refreshing to come across a narrative which explores the difficult subject of how to care for someone who is not nice and never has been. This topic is rarely covered in books and movies though, in my experience, it’s reasonably common to find someone caring for a family member who has dementia despite a fractured or even abusive relationship. Mortensen handles the material with sensitivity, but he’s also unflinching when it comes to including the harrowing details. I also appreciated the way he resists stereotyping Willard. Yes, this man is a horrible, racist, homophobic, misogynist but he’s also fond of his granddaughter and displays genuine affection for her. This is a difficult watch but a necessary one. I’d thoroughly recommend checking it out. 

Falling was written and directed by Viggo Mortensen and released in the UK in February 2021

Categories
Book Reviews

“The Twilight Years” by Sawako Ariyoshi

Translated from the Japanese by Mildred Tahara

First published in Japan in 1972, Sawako Ariyoshi’s novel, The Twilight Years was not translated into English for almost a decade. It is very much a period piece, beautifully written and faithfully translated, albeit a little dated in terms of its outlook and attitude. The novel’s main protagonist is Kyoko, a middle-aged woman who lives with her husband and teenage son in a small house in Tokyo. Her elderly in-laws live in a purpose built bungalow on the other side of the yard, although she is not particularly close to them. This changes when her mother-in-law dies unexpectedly and her father-in-law begins acting strangely. Shigezo is diagnosed with senile dementia and becomes increasingly dependent upon his daughter-in-law for care and support.

The writing is exquisite. Ariyoshi gives us a stunning snapshot of family dynamics in a modern 1960s middle class home. The novel says as much about changing attitudes to the role of women as it does about how dementia is viewed. Kyoko is expected to be solely responsible for her father-in-law’s care, including sleeping in the same room as him once he begins to wander off, bathing, toileting and feeding him. She’s also responsible for maintaining the house and feeding her family and still must manage to hold down a day job. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a portrait of a different time as I found the men’s attitudes so utterly deplorable. There is no sense of sharing responsibility for elderly care. Looking after the sick and ageing is not considered a worthy role for a man.

There’s also no question of bringing in outside help. Shigezo is not eligible for regular caring support. The specialised residential care units are all oversubscribed. His only option is a horrific-sounding mental hospital, although Kyoko is advised to avoid this option. She’s repeatedly reminded that an older person should be looked after at home by his relatives. There’s an interesting paradox at work in this novel. Older people are to be respected. Their families must honour them by caring for them in their final years. And yet, the rhetoric around ageing is quite disturbing. As the average life expectancy rises in Japan, the younger people are horrified by the reality of growing old. Shigezo is described as a burden and disgusting and on several occasions, younger members of his family express the belief that they’d rather kill themselves than end up living as he lives. At times these passages make quite hard reading. The Twilight Years is a testament to a different time. The protagonists are many years away from understanding the complexities of dementia or how a person might live well with the illness.

However, it’s not an entirely depressing novel. There are moments of simple beauty and times when we’re given an insight into more positive aspects of elderly life in Japan. I also loved the way Shigezo’s relationship with his daughter-in-law progresses and changes throughout the novel. Kyoko has always disliked and distrusted the old man but as her caring responsibilities place her in intimate proximity to him she slowly begins to form a connection and by the time he finally passes away, is incredibly fond of her father-in-law.

The Twilight Years was published by Peter Owen: London in 1984 

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Book Reviews

“The Housekeeper and The Professor” by Yogo Ogawa

Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder

Memory and memory loss are reoccurring themes in Japanese novelist, Yoko Ogawa’s fiction. Last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed her most recent novel, The Memory Police which is entirely focused upon the power and importance of memory. Here, in a much earlier novel, The Housekeeper and The Professor, Ogawa focuses upon a close set of characters and explores the relationship between a professional housekeeper and carer, the older mathematician she is paid to care for and her ten year old son whom she often brings to work with her.

The so-called Professor of the title is an intriguing character. He’s an academic and mathematics genius who, several years previously, sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car accident and has since struggled to maintain short term memories. When we’re first introduced to the Professor he cannot remember anything which took place more than 80 minutes ago. He has resorted to pinning notes on to his clothes in an attempt to convey important pieces of information to himself. The Professor’s fondness for maths and baseball remain intact, as does his ability to reminisce about the distant past. All other thoughts and experiences, no matter how visceral or important, fade from his memory within a short time. As the novel progresses and the Professor’s condition worsens, his short-term memory gradually erodes until he finds himself struggling to remember anything and is, in the book’s final chapters, moved into residential care.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is not explicitly a novel dealing with Dementia. However, many of the symptoms displayed by the Professor are associated with various kinds of Dementia: his memory loss and disorientation, the comfort he takes from routine, his preoccupation with the past, the slow decline of his physical health and inability to connect with a carer he doesn’t recognise from one visit to the next. Therefore, it’s possible to learn about these specific experiences from Ogawa’s portrait of the Professor. I’ve included this novel in my list of texts because it explores a youngish man’s experience of memory loss, (the Professor is only in his late 50s when his condition first develops), and because it’s such a well-drawn and invaluable synopsis of the relationship which can develop between a person and their professional carer. By the novel’s close, it is quite clear that the time and attention she’s given to the Professor, mean that the Housekeeper understands him better than his own family. 

This is a gentle novel with beautifully crafted characters and due attention paid to recording the experience of memory loss with honesty and precision, but also a modicum of hope. I’ve really enjoyed Ogawa’s writing and now intend to track down more of her novels. I’d thoroughly recommend this book. 

The Housekeeper and the Professor was published by Vintage in 2010 

Categories
Book Reviews

“Before the Coffee Gets Cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Translated from the Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot

Before the Coffee Gets Cold was a huge hit in Japan when it was first published in 2015 and, after translation, has proven to be extremely popular internationally. It includes many tropes of Japanese literature -the focus on family structures, fantastical elements, café culture- and yet, having read a lot of Japanese literature over the last few years I found this novel very slight and a little flat. It felt a bit generic and forgettable to me. It is, however, interestingly structured. The novel is split into four distinct sections, each one focused upon a regular customer in the basement café where the novel is set. Though the cast of characters all appear in each section, each of the quarters is clearly devoted to a particular person or couple. 

The café itself is an intriguing conceit. If a customer sits in a particular chair it is possible to travel back to the past or forward to the future to meet another customer in the same café. Unfortunately, there is an ever-growing list of caveats and rules when it comes to the time travelling seat. Customers may only travel once, cannot change the present and must return before their coffee gets cold. As a magic realist writer, I found this scenario really appealing but was a little disappointed by how Kawaguchi developed it. He never seems to fully exploit or explore the potential of time travel and each escapade resolves much too neatly. The novel’s ending, in particular, feels a little too like a Hallmark movie to be truly satisfying.

The second section of Before the Coffee Gets Cold, is entitled “Husband and Wife” and follows Fusagi, an older Japanese man who has recently been diagnosed with dementia and his wife Kohtake who is a nurse. The scene begins when Fusagi drops into the café to leave a letter for his wife. Kohtake is sitting at a table in plain sight. This is the first time her husband has not recognised her, and she is naturally quite upset. The women who work in the café try their best to comfort their friend. The novel gives the reader an interesting snapshot of how dementia is viewed culturally in Japan. As a nurse, Kohtake insists that she will be able to look after her husband’s physical needs when the illness begins to remove his independence. She will put his needs above her own desires as his partner. Later, upset by the deterioration in her husband’s condition, Kohtake asks to use the time travelling chair to return to a point in the past where her husband was well and unaware of his condition. She’d like to spend a few minutes with the old Fusagi, before his personality began to change. Kohtake does not travel back far enough. She meets her husband at a point where he already knows his diagnosis though he’s carefully hiding his symptoms from her. Fusagi insists that he does not want to become a patient to his wife. He wants her to promise that she will leave him to professional carers when his dementia advances to the point that Kohtake can no longer see him as her husband.

There’s so much potential in this novel. Kawaguchi could have explored the complex power structures and emotional connections inherent within a relationship where one of the partners develops dementia. He could have taken a longer look at the differences between Eastern and Western attitudes to both dementia and how the elderly are perceived. I’d have loved him to fully unpick the huge moral question of whether you’d change the future if you could. Instead, he gives us a charming story about a couple and a magical chair. It’s a neat little dementia narrative and the fantastical elements do not jar but I can’t help but wish we’d been given a little more depth.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold was published by Picador in 2019 

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Book Reviews

“A Chronicle of Forgetting” by Sebastijan Pregelj

Translated from the Slovene by Rawley Grau

Slovene novelist, Sebastijan Pregelj’s slender novel, A Chronicle of Forgetting is a beautifully written book, expertly translated by Rawley Grau. The prose is clean and elegant, allowing Pregelj to experiment with hidden meanings and images inherent within the text. The novel is set in a Slovene nursing home and focuses upon a small number of residents and staff members who we see through the eyes of one elderly male resident. It is divided up into four sections, including an opening section narrated by the main protagonist at his own funeral and a final section narrated by an unnamed carer who might be representative of the man’s inner life. The novel closes with this haunting statement, delivered over the man’s deathbed. 

“You are what has happened and what is yet to come. 

You are life as it is.”

Perhaps these words can be read as a kind of key which unlocks the entire novel. This is a book where time itself is extremely fluid. As the narrator’s Dementia develops, he slips backwards and forwards in his reminiscences. His past life and regrets blur with the present as he attempts to make amends for the mistakes he’s made. At times it’s unclear whether these grand gestures have actually been made or are simply plans the man is making for a future he might not live to see. He enjoys a romance with an elderly female resident though it’s also unclear if this only takes place inside his head. As the novel progresses, he -and by proxy the readers he speaks to- becomes increasingly confused between reality and imagination. There are several occasions within the novel where he might be experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations, common to certain types of Dementia, or he might be narrating a real experience. I enjoyed the way Pregelj refuses to patronise his readers and leaves the interpretation up to them.

Some of the classic tropes of Dementia narratives set in care facilities are absent here. There’s very little evidence of residents being infantilised. In fact, the narrator goes out of his way to emphasise his independence and the good relationships he has with staff members. He does talk at length about the physical aspects of ageing and deterioration. He describes the effects old age has had on his body including weight loss and incontinency. I was also glad to see one of the first explorations of sex between older people living with Dementia I’ve come across during my reading. However, Pregelj avoids language loss as an associated issue. The narrative voice is strong and coherent throughout the text. 

As the title would suggest A Chronicle of Forgetting is primarily a book concerned with memory; how memory is lost, what we remember and how accurate our memories are. It’s a beautiful, meandering gentle read which left me more hopeful than most Dementia narratives do. There’s a real sense of urgency running through this narrative. The man is not naïve. He knows he’s losing his grasp on reality, but he chooses not to panic and to make the most of every minute he has left. 

“Forgetting will swallow up my memories, bit by bit, until eventually I forget who I am, where I came from and why I’m here. But before that happens, I hope that for a few moments I’ll be able to put the world around me out of my mind and, without fear, sail away to somewhere else.”

A Chronicle of Forgetting was published by the Slovene Writers’ Association in 2019